Weekly Review — May 5, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Swine flu, renamed under pork-lobby pressure to “influenza A (H1N1) virus, human,” and referred to as “killer Mexican flu” by anti-immigration activists, had infected 985 people, or 0.0000145 percent of the world’s population. Twenty countries reported infections; one death from the flu was confirmed in the United States; and 25 people had died in Mexico, where a cute five-year-old boy named Edgar Hernandez was presented to the media as “patient zero.”SFGate.comUSA TodayThe World Health OrganizationThe GuardianThe New York Daily NewsMexico shut down for five days to contain the illness,The TelegraphChina began to quarantine Mexicans,The Wall Street Journaland Vice President Joe Biden appeared on television and counseled U.S. citizens to avoid airplanes, subways, and classrooms, which led to protests by the travel industry. “I think the vice president misrepresented what the vice president wanted to say,” explained Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.The Los Angeles TimesEgypt, which has no cases of the flu, ordered all its pigs killed, especially slum pigs; police at Manshiyat Nasr slum fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioting Coptic Christian pig farmers.MSNBCBBCGeneticists continued to sequence the flu’s genes. “Atgaaggcaa tactagtagt tctgctatat,” read the opening line of the segment-four hemagglutinin gene. “Acatttgcaa ccgcaaatgc agacacatta.”NCBI

Recalling September 11, New Yorkers panicked as a spare Air Force One 747, accompanied by a fighter jet, flew low near the World Trade Center site in Manhattan for a White House photo op. President Barack Obama, who is reading the novel Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, ordered a review of the $328,835 flight.The New York TimesThe New York TimesCNNPennsylvaniaSenator Arlen Specter rejoined the Democratic Party after more than 40 years as a Republican. “There’s more than being reelected here,” he insisted. “There’s the factor of principle.”PoliticoJack Kemp died,AP via Googleand Republicans launched an organization called National Council for a New America. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush urged his party to “listen a little bit, learn a little bit”; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney called the Democrats “the party of the monarchists.”CNNSupreme Court Justice David Souter announced that he was retiring, a decision some attributed to his hatred for Washington, D.C., which he has called “the world’s worst city,”Seattle TimesAP Via Googleand Mr. T was called for jury duty in a drug case in Cook County, Illinois. “If you’re innocent, I’m your best man,” he said. “But if you’re guilty, I pity that fool.”Chicago Sun-TimesMine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby despite 50-1 odds.New York TimesThe New York Times Company decided not to close the Boston Globe,New York Timesand dollar stores were selling more food.BusinessGuided by the Obama Administration, Chrysler filed for a bankruptcy from which it plans to emerge in two months, when it will be purchased by the United States, Canada, the United Auto Workers union, and Italian manufacturer Fiat, which plans to merge with Opel, part of General Motors Europe, to create a massive new car conglomerate. The new company will be rechristened Chrysler but will probably not honor its outstanding car warranties.The Detroit NewsThe GuardianNew York TimesThe United Kingdom pulled its troops out of Iraq.BBC News

Sweden recognized same-sex marriages,AFP via Googleand a senior Buddhist monk in Thailand named Phra Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi vowed to teach gay and transgender Thai monks better manners, which would include the elimination of their pink purses, their sculpted eyebrows, and their revealingly tight robes.BBC NewsSouth Korea bioengineered four fluorescent beagles.AP via Google NewsChild-injury researchers demonstrated a 40 percent rise since the early 1990s in the number of childhood injuries brought on by falling furniture,Eurekalertand a food-service industry survey found that schoolchildren would like to replace lunch ladies with robots.QSR MagazineSri Lanka’s army reportedly killed 91 people at a hospital inside a civilian safe zone; officials blamed the bombing on the Tamil Tigers.BBC NewsPakistan’s army killed as many as 60 Taliban,France24and Kenyan women’s organizations called for wives to boycott sex, and for prostitutes to be paid not to work, until leaders in the coalition government stop feuding.The Financial TimesVeronica Lario, wife of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, announced plans to file for divorce after learning that her husband had attended the eighteenth birthday party of a budding lingerie model to whom he has given jewelry and who calls him “Daddy.” “That surprised me,” said Lario, “because he never attended the eighteenth birthday parties of his own children, even if he was invited.”New York TimesNew York TimesArchaeologists searched sites near Alexandria for the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony,The Canadian Press via Google Newsand the Italian container ship Jolly Smeraldo, at sail off Somalia, was able, through evasive maneuvers, to ward off pirate attacks twice in successive days, despite taking on bazooka fire.Lloyd’s ListNine people died when a pleasure boat capsized off Malaysia; the lone survivor, a 14-year-old boy, stayed afloat by using his mother as a raft.Herald SunOfficials in New Delhi were investigating the case of Shanno Khan, an 11-year-old girl whose teacher allegedly forced her to stand in the hot sun for two hours as a punishment for not doing her homework, ignoring Khan when she promised to learn her alphabet and begged for water. The girl fainted and was hospitalized. “I never want to go to school again,” she told her mother, and died a day later.FOX NewsTime

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

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